Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. He proclaimed forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in His name. He also brought good news to the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for prisoners, and release for the oppressed. Followers of Jesus cannot separate evangelism from social action, righteousness from justice, faith from repentance, or concern for the salvation of souls from concern for those who suffer.
Jesus commanded us to love God and our neighbor. This is the great commandment. He illustrated love for neighbor with the story of a man who overcame his fear and prejudice to save the life of a stranger who had been beaten and left for dead. Jesus also commanded his followers to proclaim the good news of salvation through faith in Christ, and to make disciples of all nations. This is the great commission. Our responsibility is not to choose which of Jesus’ commands is most important, but to commit to obey everything Jesus commanded.
If the tendency of the last generation of evangelicals was to neglect the great commandment to give priority to evangelism, this next generation might be tempted to neglect the great commission while giving priority to the great commandment. In today’s postmodern culture, it is perfectly acceptable to serve the community but religious views are, and must remain, a private and relative matter.
As the pendulum swings one way and then the other, our challenge is to hold to the middle, and make it our aim to be faithful to everything Jesus commanded.